Hidden Toxins in Common Plastics

Plastics are so common in society today that they are generally regarded as a safe and useful product. Although plastics do have many advantages and indeed it would be difficult to do without them, many studies are now confirming that there is more in plastic than meets the eye.

Bisphenol A

One of the most widely studied chemicals contained in everyday plastics is Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an oestrogenic compound contained in plastics and now in most human bodies in the developed world. After studies published in the Journal of the Americal Medical Association (JAMA) in 2008 associated BPA with serious diseases and infertility it has been brought into the spotlight.

In March last year, BPA in food and beverage containers and utensils marketed to children were banned, and several international companies also voluntarily ceased using BPA in their infant products.

In June, Canada brought in regulations to to prohibit the use of BPA in babies bottles. Babies bottles usually are made with plastics containing BPA in Australia, as are the majority of water bottles and containers sold.

Plastics with a 3, 6 and especially 7 in the recycling symbol contain BPA and should therefore be avoided. You will commonly see these symbols on water cooler bottles, hard and soft plastic drink bottles, babies bottles and many other common household items.

Phthalates
Like BPA, phthalates have the ability to disrupt hormones, mimicking the female hormone oestrogen in the body. Phthalates are found in high concentrations in shower curtains and vinyl flooring.

There has been a EU ban on the use of phthalates however they are still used in many household items such as plastic furniture and packaging.

A recent study tested urine samples of pregnant women for phthalates. The mothers, who gave birth to 74 boys and 71 girls were followed up until the children were 7 years of age.

One of the remarkable findings of this study was that the boys of mothers who had high pregnancy levels of phthalates were less likely to play with cars, trains and guns and engage in rougher games like play fighting.

The researchers of the study described phthalates as “gender benders”, having feminising qualities in children.
Two of the most common phthalates are DEHP, which is used to make PVC soft and pliable in products like flooring, and DBP, used as a plasticiser in glues, dyes and textiles.

Some non-toxic plastic alternatives

There are many alternatives to these plastics becoming available on the market. Try some of these tips to lower your toxin input:

  1. Use a glass or stainless steel drinking bottle for your water only.
  2. Avoid using plastics to store food in – especially if being heated. A good alternative is pyrex food containers, which are made of glass.
  3. Opt for living with carpet or hardwood flooring instead of plastics, especially if you have babies crawling around.
  4. Look for products that state that they are BPA and phthalate free.